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FINAL: Kansas State 33, Baylor 20 - Once You Drop You Just Can’t Stop

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The Cats hold on to win a game that should have been a blowout.

Run, Alex, Run
Run, Alex, Run
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the fact that K-State has no receivers, they were still able to cobble together enough offense to dispatch the Baylor Bears 33-20 this afternoon at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

The Wildcats struck quickly, scoring in under two minutes after the opening kickoff. The drive was aided by a 32-yard Alex Barnes scamper, and Jesse Ertz found Isaiah Zuber twice — once for 15 yards before Barnes broke free, and once for 16 and a score immediately after.

Baylor then ground seven minutes off the clock, but had to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Connor Martin to make the score 7-3. On that drive, Cre Moore was ejected for targeting, which probably had a little something to do with the fourth quarter.

The Wildcat defense owned the next half hour. Meanwhile, K-State extended their lead to 20-3, with Winston Dimel scoring from the one on a second-quarter touchdown and Matt McCrane hitting field goals of 37 and 21 yards, the latter with seconds left in the second quarter. Baylor could have gotten a score when D.J. Reed fumbled a punt return at the Wildcat 12, but K-State pushed Baylor on three negative plays, Reggie Walker blocked the field goal attempt, and disaster was averted.

Baylor was basically unable to do anything, only amassing 80 yards of offense by halftime and being held in check for the first 11 minutes of the third; Baylor only managed a field goal in the interim to make it 20-6.

Baylor then got their offense in gear, though. John Lovett scored on a 70-yard run. A bad snap sailed over Smith’s head and K-State recovered at the Baylor 14, a 29-yard turnover. Ertz ran it in from 15, and K-State was up 27-13. But after that, Denzel Mims caught a 70-yard pass from Zach Smith, and Baylor was again within a score.

But K-State marched down and tacked on another three as McCrane hit from 49, and capitalized on another bad snap when Baylor tried to punt with 7 minutes to go. McCrane nailed his fourth field goal of the day, this time from 23 yards out, and all K-State needed was one more hold.

They got it in style. With 2:44 to go, Kendall Adams intercepted Smith in the Wildcat red zone, and Bill Snyder put the ball in Alex Delton ‘s hands to lock down the game. Delton’s legs led to a pair of first downs, and that brought the clock low enough to kneel the victory into the books.

Ertz was 7-17 for 119 yards, 79 of that to Zuber on four catches. But don’t read too much into those incompletions, because — and we are not exaggerating -- all but a couple were entirely on the receivers for not catching them. Ertz led the Cats with 95 yards on 12 carries. Barnes had 87 on 13; while Justin Silmon and Delton didn’t have big numbers (23 and 16, respectively) they had key first downs when they mattered.

For Baylor, Smith was 26-44 for 291 yards, most of that in the fourth quarter. Mims and Pooh Stricklin each had over 100 yards. On the ground, Baylor managed 84 yards net, and John Lovett had 95 of them. Yes, you read that right. Take away Lovett’s touchdown run and Baylor only had net 14 yards on the ground, largely because the team was credited with -49 yards due to sacks and lost yardage on the two bad snaps. Setting that aside, Baylor’s run game was still utterly ineffective aside from Lovett’s run, gaining only 79 yards otherwise.

Overall, K-State had 343 yards of offense, 225 on the ground; Baylor had 375. But if you subtract Baylor’s two big touchdowns, they only managed 235 yards, so that’s something.

What did we learn?

1) The receiving corps needs to practice, you know, receiving.

One of the dropped passes was to Barnes, so whatever. Isaiah Harris had a drop. Zuber, who we can’t yell at too loudly, dropped a couple. And Byron Pringle had zero catches despite at least half a dozen targets. One one of those non-catches was Ertz’s fault.

The receivers. Are not catching. Balls in their hands.

It needs to be fixed. And Bill Snyder agrees. In post-game, he said “...it gets corrected, or you get somebody else. It’s that simple.”

2) The run game is decent, but lacks oomph.

You can’t really gripe about 225 yards, but if we’re going to talk about how well the defense actually played overall, we also have to look at Alex Barnes with a sideeye. Take away his big run and Barnes had 49 yards on 12 carries, and nobody who wasn’t a quarterback managed over three yards a carry.

Guys, Baylor’s run defense isn’t that great. This is troubling.

That said, Barnes had a 40+ yard touchdown run called back because he was ruled down; he was, but the effort he made to stay on his feet was epic. There was another play where Barnes was parallel to and only about eight inches off the ground, face up, and somehow managed to get back on his feet and gain another 3-4 yards. Gotta love that kid.

3) D.J. Reed will want to just forget today.

Reed played well defensively, but he made three huge mistakes on special teams: choosing to field a line-drive punt at the Baylor two which would have been a touchback if he’d just stepped aside, which turned into his fumble at the 12-yard-line; choosing not to fair catch a punt near midfield which ended up bouncing about 20 yards in Baylor’s favor; and he fumbled another punt return, which thankfully rolled out of bounds with five Bears within a body length of the ball.

This is an anomaly, as Reed has been nails in the return game. But it’s still disturbing.

4) The defense is really, really good...

Baylor had 375 yards. It took them 71 plays to get there, which is 5.28 yards a play. Look, both Ertz and Barnes beat the snot out of that figure every time they carry the ball. If you strike the two Bad Plays, it’s 235 on 69 plays — 3.41 per.

And ignoring those numbers, the eye test passed as well. The defense continually put Baylor behind the eight ball, made a ton of highlight-reel plays, and even held Baylor to 5-15 on third-down situations. That’s pretty good, especially given what we’re used to around here. Sure, Baylor was 2-3 on 4th down conversions, but one of those was a fake punt so whatever.

Tanner Wood was especially on point today, while Duke Shelley, Kyle Ball, and Kendall Adams all had good moments. And for the first time in a game recap, we get to call out Davis Clark, who had a big stop on the all-important drive after Reed’s lost fumble.

5) ...but man, they look bad when they’re not.

Those two plays we’re ignoring: 140 yards on two plays, and the defense looked like the Keystone Kops trying to tackle Lovett and Mims. They’ve got to work on that, because on both plays the play was defended. These were not instances where Baylor got behind the defense and won a footrace. There were missed tackles everywhere, and that’s a correctable problem.

Still, remember that the team had to play 55 minutes without Cre Moore, and maybe you can overlook the flaws there. It’s probably accurate to suggest that Lovett doesn’t break that run with Moore in the game, and it’s possible Mims doesn’t get loose either. Even if Moore’s not in the game for those plays specifically, Johnathan Durham was basically forced to play the entire game at nickel, so that had a fatigue impact as well.

Let us know what you thought, how you feel, and what you’re thinking about Texas. Meanwhile, this is also your open thread for the evening games, including Mississippi State-Auburn, Memphis-UCF, Clemson-Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State-Texas Tech, and all those wacky late-night games out on the Left Coast.